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What Disabilities are Caused by Traumatic Brain Injuries?
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) account for some of the most serious that our personal injury attorneys see.
In the most severe cases, these injuries have far-reaching consequences affecting every facet of the victim’s life and require lifelong care.
Other traumatic brain injuries, while temporary, have some devastating short-term effects on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of patients.
But what are the most common disabilities caused by TBIs and how do you know whether an injury will be long-lasting or temporary?
Traumatic brain injury factors
How serious a brain injury is will depend largely upon the following factors:
- The severity of the blow to the brain suffered
- The precise location of the injury
- The age of the victim
- The general health of the victim
Most commonly, blows to the head and the resulting damage to the brain leads to problems in five main areas:
- Cognition: thinking, memory, and reasoning
- Sensory perception: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell
- Communication: expression, speech and comprehension
- Mental health: depression, anxiety, etc.
- Behavior: personality changes, etc.
The most common disabilities associated with traumatic brain injuries fall under one or more of these five categories and are summarized below.
The five most common disabilities associated with TBIs
A condition called post-concussion syndrome (PCS) affects roughly half of all traumatic brain injury sufferers within a few days of an accident.
This may last no more than a day or two – or up to several weeks or even months – and can include a wide range of symptoms.
Symptoms may develop even if the victim was not rendered unconscious or did not suffer a concussion from the accident. They may even affect people with a mild TBI, preventing normal day-to-day activities.
Typical symptoms include:
- Memory and concentration problems
- Sleep disturbance
- Anxiety or depression
- Agitation and irritability
Symptoms are generally managed using medication, occupational therapy and/or psychotherapy and the recovery rate is good.
Sensory disabilities affect sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Vision is the most common sense affected as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
If signals between the brain and the eyes are disrupted from the injury, the victim may have trouble registering what they are seeing, making it difficult to recognize people or objects.
While this is usually temporary and will pass, very little can be done other than giving it time. In the meantime, it will prevent everyday activities such as driving, operating machinery at work, and participating in sports.
Other sensory effects from a traumatic brain injury may include:
- Difficulty with hand-eye coordination
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Difficulties with balance from ear problems
- Only being able to taste bitterness
- Itching, irritating or tingling skin
- Only being able to smell noxious odors
Because of these sensory difficulties, secondary accidents may result, with victims unsteady on their feet and sometimes prone to bumping into things.
The cognitive effects of a severe TBI can be serious and long-lasting. Problems related to thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, information processing, and memory have far-reaching effects.
The loss of memory is particularly common for TBI victims. This can be short-term memory (the inability to store new information) or long-term memory problems (loss of specific memories in the past) depending on the nature and precise location of the damage to the brain.
Post-traumatic amnesia is also quite common. This causes impaired memory of events that happened before or after the accident that caused the injury. This may resolve itself over time – usually within six months of the accident.
However, the victim may develop other problems such as foggy brain, confusion, distraction, poor concentration levels, and problems with reasoning, decision-making, and solving problems (the so-called “executive” functions of the brain).
The effects of these cognitive issues are potentially severe with the victim even becoming dependent upon others for decision-making at least in the short-term.
Generally speaking, victims of moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries are more likely to suffer from cognitive disabilities than those with a mild TBI.
Problems with communicating
Speech, language and communication difficulties are common effects of traumatic brain injuries. This can be extremely frustrating and confusing for the patient and loved ones.
In the most serious cases, victims have trouble understanding, speaking, and writing words (known as aphasia). Others may slur their words, make little sense when they speak or struggle with body language and non-verbal signals.
The most common conditions include:
- Non-fluent aphasia – where victims have trouble recalling words and talking in complete sentences (often speaking in broken language)
- Fluent aphasia – where there is little meaning in the spoken phrases, despite being largely grammatically correct (even including made-up words)
- Global aphasia – this is the most serious of these disabilities, with victims experiencing extensive brain damage and suffering severe difficulties in using language
- Dysarthria – where the part of the brain that controls the speech muscles is damaged so that the patient knows what to say but can’t utter the words intelligibly (often with slurred speech)
An often-overlooked result of traumatic brain injuries is the accompanying emotional problems.
While the most visible effects of a TBI may be sensory, cognitive or communication problems, emotional problems may be deep and long-lasting. They may be obscured to some extent by the other more obvious disabilities.
However, depression, anxiety, irritability, paranoia, and mood problems can have a profound effect on the quality of life for the victim and should not be under-estimated.
Often, these problems lead to other issues such as sleep disturbance, which impacts mental and physical health. They can also cause behavioral changes, such as unexpected bouts of aggression, inappropriate social behavior or emotional outbursts. Victims may require psychotherapy and medication to manage these issues.
For the families of victims, the psychological effects of the TBI can be the most challenging ones to deal with.
Do you need help with a traumatic brain injury claim?
Mounting medical bills from TBI injuries can cause severe financial difficulties for victims and their families, adding to the stress at this difficult time.
If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI injury, contact Park Chenaur & Associates for a free initial consultation. If you can’t make it into our office, we’ll come to you.
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